There are many attributes that go into being a successful NFL quarterback. Among them are arm strength, accuracy, the ability to read a defense, and pocket presence.
There is one ability however that is often overlooked, and it’s something that can separate an elite quarterback from a very good one. It is the ability to manipulate a defense by looking off a defender and using pump fakes. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles did a good job of this in 2013, especially for being such a young quarterback, but there is always room for improvement.
Earlier this off-season, Chip Kelly was asked what Foles could improve upon for 2014, coming off of a stellar 2013 season in which he lead the NFL in many categories, including setting the third highest quarterback rating in the history of the NFL.
— Luis Gustavo (@LuisNFL96) December 29, 2013
Here was Kelly’s answer:
“Everything. And I think Nick will tell you the same thing…I think the big thing with Nick, just like the other guys I talked to, Year 1 for a lot of those guys was just getting all the terminology down, learning if it’s this play, do this. Now it’s the intricacies of it, exactly what is my footwork, how is my ball-handling, how can I do a better job when I don’t have the ball, how can I do a better job with faking, what can I do to influence, now I understand what the coverage is, but how can I influence it? Or how can I move the safety? Because I really want to throw the post, but instead of just going, ‘Hey the safety’s on the post, I gotta throw the checkdown.’ Now what are the little, teeny intricacies of the game?”
Here are a few examples of what Kelly is talking about when it comes to being able to influence the coverage.
This first play comes from the Oakland Raider game.
Oakland’s defense is in a Cover-one, with the cornerbacks in man coverage and a single high safety. This is a look that the Eagles saw often in 2013. The other safety is going to run up to the line of scrimmage to cover LeSean McCoy coming out of the backfield.
Riley Cooper runs a deep post on this play, and looking at Oakland’s formation, the single high safety should be in position to give help to the cornerback covering him. However, on this play Brent Celek runs an intermediate post route, and as Foles is going through his reads, he locks on to Celek long enough to cause the safety to freeze.
This is all that Foles needs to create a one-on-one matchup downfield for Riley Cooper. That split second is all it takes for the safety to be out of position to provide deep help on this play, and the result is a touchdown. Here is the view from behind the line of scrimmage so you can see how Foles goes through his reads.